Discover how Christ’s judgment for sin is just as important as His message of love, grace and forgiveness.
[Gary Petty] You see, God wants to turn your life around. He wants to give you eternal life in His family, a more beautiful and joyous thing than you've ever experienced, any of us have. And that's the good news. But if we ignore the words of Jesus about judgment, we do that at great peril.
[Narrator] Join our presenters from the United Church of God as we bring you help for today and hope for tomorrow directly from your Bible, here on Beyond Today.
[Gary Petty] The gospel accounts of the life of Jesus are filled with stories about him spending time with the poor and outcasts of society. He once healed a leper, but He healed him by touching him, a gesture that was at the time unthinkable, because leprosy, many of its different forms were contagious and there was no cure. And He reached out and touched him. You know, some religious leaders accused Him of being a glutton and a heavy wine drinker because He enjoyed eating meals when talking with the lower classes of people. He also received many invitations to dine in the homes of the rich and influential Jewish society. He bestowed great value on women and many of the profound moments in the gospels about the life of Jesus show Him interacting with women. He even interacted with the Romans, the heavy handed occupiers of Judea. Now these stories tell us and show us Jesus as a social and very caring person.
Now let's look at a statement made by Jesus in his famous sermon on the Mount, one of the great places of teaching of Jesus. And He's talking about adultery and He literally says to the people there, "if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you." By the way, He was a master at hyperbole, when you read His sayings. He said, "for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish than for your whole body to be cast into hell." Now is the loving Jesus teaching the person can be cast into hell for something as common as having sex outside of marriage? How is this consistent with the social and caring trail of Jesus?
Well, today we're continuing our series on the unknown Jesus, by exploring what He says about Himself as a judge. You know one of Jesus proclaimed purposes was to reveal God, the Father. In fact, Jesus is the ultimate revelation of the true God. His life in teachings show us the love of God in action. Jesus told a Jewish religious leader named Nicodemus, "for God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." This is the incredible good news He preached.
But there's another side to the unknown Jesus. There are passages where He claims to be a judge of those who are against God. Now, before we look at one of those passages, I'm going to go through the backstory of what happens here because understanding the context of His statement gives us insight into Jesus, and of course His message. Jesus and His core group of disciples were walking down the street one day and came across a man who was well known because he was blind from birth. And the disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned? This man or his parents that he was born blind?” Now that's a good question, right? Cause and effect. That's what they wanted to know. And they assumed that somebody had sinned and this man's blindness was God's direct punishment on somebody. Jesus teaches them something that is much more profound than their simple assumption. He replied, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God would be revealed in him."
It is true that all the suffering that we have in this world and our lives is the result of living in a world that has moved away from God. I mean the entire history of a sin driven humanity under the direct influence of Satan produces nothing but what? Generational suffering and bad effects. And this story, in this world of chaos and meaningless suffering, Jesus said at that particular moment, and this particular place with a down trodden people under the heel of the Romans, this particular man was born blind so that God could shine His light into a dark world. And Jesus healed the man and he could see. Now the Pharisees, which was a religious group that they were often in conflict with Jesus. They had this formerly blind man brought before them and demanded an explanation on how he received sight. And when he told them what happened and praised God for this remarkable gift, the Pharisees condemned Jesus and threw the former blind man out of the place. So Jesus finds the blind man and asked him, you know, so now he can see now, do you believe in the Son of God? Now this is important because Jesus is asking the man if he believes in the prophesied Messiah. And here's what the man says. "He says, Lord, I believe. And he worshiped Him." Okay, so this is the backstory. This is the backstory to what Jesus now says. And Jesus said to him, "for judgment I have come into this world that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind." What? How does that make sense? I've come to pass judgment so that those who don't see will see and those who can see won't be able to see.
Now, it is important to understand that Jesus isn't talking about the physical healing of the blind man. He's talking about willful spiritual blindness, a refusal to accept Him as the son of God, as the Messiah. And you know what? The Pharisees understood what He was saying. Because their response to Him was, are we blind also? Obviously they weren't talking about physical blindness, right? So wait a minute, you're saying we are blind? And here's what Jesus says. "And Jesus said to them, if you were blind, you would have no sin. But now you say, we see therefore your sin remains." It's an odd passage. I mean, Jesus is judging hypocrisy and He's judging them. His message is that there are those who respond to Him and see the spiritual light of God. And there are those who reject the light. And when they reject the light of Jesus Christ, they become spiritually blind.
You know, it's interesting. The Pharisees knew the messianic prophecies and they were expecting a messianic judge, a judge who would bring judgment on the Romans and the pagans and exalt them as the people of God. That's what they expected. But you see the Pharisees had become so secure in their own goodness, they saw the light of God, Jesus Christ as a threat to their feelings of spiritual superiority. The result is that they were being judged by the very Messiah they expected to judge others. And what we understand from this, their sins were not being forgiven by God.
Marketing focus groups say that we should not talk about sin or judgment because it turns people away and they'll turn you off. Okay, well does that mean that here we are looking at the Bible, the life of Jesus, that we should ignore this part of Jesus message and choose to live in darkness and just pretend to be Christians? God's judgment on sin is central to the good news of forgiveness. There can be no good news of forgiveness if there is no sin and the price of not being forgiven by God is terrifying.
So let's look at another place here where Jesus talks about judging. This one's also a little different than what you might think. He said, "If anyone hears my words and does not believe, I do not judge him, for I did not come to the world to judge but to save the world." Wait a minute, wait a minute. Well there's the opening check case, right? He didn't come to judge anybody. Hmm. Well let's read the next sentence. "He who rejects me and does not receive my words has that which judges him." Oh, there is something that judges and what judges him? "The word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day." He said, there is a standard of judgment. As the Christ, Jesus came to bring life and salvation but those who reject His words according to Him, will be judged by what? His words. That's the standard of judgment. And when will it happen? In the last day.
When you explore what Jesus actually taught you discover that His gospel is about two things, God's grace and love and God's judgment on evil. And you can't separate them. They're both sides of a coin. God's promises the disciples His help and guidance in the problems and suffering of everyday life that we all go through. He also promises the disciples something beyond this life. And another passage here in John, Jesus said, "and this is the will of him who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day." “At the last day,” didn't we just hear that term, “at the last day?” He's talking about judgment of evil. Okay, we've seen that. And now here He is talking about, He's going to resurrect His followers. When? At this time called the last day. So we have to, if we're going to understand Jesus's teaching, we need to know about the last day. Because the last day is an important phrase in understanding Jesus as judge. He had told His disciples He was going to die, be resurrected, returned to God from where He had come, and returned to earth to fulfill the messianic prophecies of ruling over God's Kingdom on earth. They didn't always understand that. You can see by their reactions to Him. But that message was given to them. And He referred to His second coming as the last day.
Throughout the New Testament, the followers of Jesus Christ were motivated by a desire to be with Him at His return at the last day. But He also said when He does that, He's bringing judgment of evil. He is. God is sending Him to bring judgment. And there's a tendency in the post-modern humanistic new aged Christianity to ignore and even deny Jesus as Judge. And let's face it, baby Jesus in the manger is comforting. Jesus returning in power to punish evil, that's a little uncomfortable if we don't know who He really is.
I mentioned earlier that Jesus taught how a person could be cast into hell because of unrepentant sexual sin. Now it's very interesting. The word that Jesus uses for hell is from a Hebrew and corresponding Aramaic word Gehenna. You know that's not the word the apostle Paul uses in his writings for hell. It's a Greek word and it's different. And there's a reason. The reason Paul doesn't use this word is because it wouldn't have any meaning in Greek. Gehenna was a valley outside of Jerusalem where in ancient times people sacrificed their children to pagan gods. According to some Jewish tradition, at the time of Jesus, Gehenna was a stinking, always burning, maggot filled garbage dump. You see, it's a literal place and that's why people in Corinth or Rome would have no idea where Gehenna is. That's why Paul didn't use it. But people living in Judea, they knew exactly what he meant. He was using this horrific place as an analogy of what? God's judgment on evil people.
Now here's another place where Jesus uses the word Gehenna. This is in Matthew chapter 10. He says, "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell." That's Gehenna. His message is clear. Don't fear human beings who may able to take your life, your physical life, but fear God who is able to destroy your body and your life in Gehenna. The good news contains a warning of God's judgment on evil. And that includes evil people. The good news has no context unless there's this bad news. You see, God wants to turn your life around. He wants to give you eternal life in his family. A more beautiful and joyous thing than you've ever experienced, any of us have. And that's the good news. But if we ignore the words of Jesus about judgment, we do that at great peril.
Jesus spells out His role as judge in a parable, very fascinating parable given to a large group of people. And in this parable there's a farmer who plants his field with good wheat seed, okay? So he is planting wheat in a field. And while the farmer slept an enemy comes along and sows tares, which is just a type of weeds, in his field. And when the wheat sprouts, weeds were scattered throughout the field. And the farmer's workers come to him say, well what should we do? I mean, we got weeds coming up in the field here with the wheat what should we do? And the farmer says something interesting. He says, let it alone. Let them all grow together, okay, until harvest time. And then the good seed will be harvested and the weeds will be separated and burned up with fire, and burned up with fire. Now His disciples, if that seems like a strange parable, don't worry, His disciples didn't understand it either. Because after the crowd had dissipated, they come to Him later in the day and they said what did you mean? They're confused. And He made the meaning very clear. Here's what He told them. The parable in the farmer was Himself. The farmer was Jesus. He's planting, He's doing a work. Those it's people, okay. He's doing this work, the work of God in humanity. The good seeds, that's His disciples, that's He's planting seeds to grow up and become the children of God. The enemy is Satan. Satan is real as part of the gospel. He's part of the bad news. It goes along with the good news. He's real and he's trying to constantly keep us from responding to God. The harvest is the end of the age, that last day when Jesus comes back.
Now there's a whole lot of things that have to happen during the last day, but we're just looking at, He's specifically saying, I come to do this. And He comes to bring judgment. The workers are the angels. And the weeds are those who oppose God, and what happens to them? Jesus comes back and says, I love all of you, it doesn't matter. That's not what happens. It's not about Jesus' love, it's about judgment on evil and they're burned with fire. When you talk about Gehenna, He was bringing out a literal point and this parable is bringing out a literal point. I'm going to read what He said here at the end of this parable. So He gives them this parable and then He says, "and the son of man will send out His angels and they will gather out of His Kingdom, all things that offend those who practice lawlessness, will cast them into the furnace of fire where they'll be wailing and gnashing of teeth." That's a strong statement. This is made by Jesus. He's explaining what we just went through, okay? And then He says this, "Then the righteous, His disciples, will shine forth as the Son in the Kingdom of their Father."
So now He brings the good news. And then He gives this dire warning. Look at what it says here. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." In other words, listen up to what I'm saying, I'm coming for my disciples and I'm coming to make a judgment on those people who have rejected God. That's pretty strong, isn't it? I mean He's coming to pass judgment. Those who refuse to repent of their evil lives, He's going to judge. These are the words of Jesus. And they're just as important as His message of love and forgiveness. Love and forgiveness, we have to be forgiven of something, right? There has to be some reason we seem unlovable and God fixes that. So we have to give the judgment side as well as the love and forgiveness side or it means nothing.
Now I know at this point someone is going to say, well this sounds like fear religion to me. The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news. It's the only way out of this, the mess we're in. The good news about God's desire to be your father, He loves you, He wants to forgive you. This isn't something He's compelled to do. He wants to forgive you. He wants to heal you of the emotional damage and abuse that's happened to you in your life, to heal you from being a broken person and make you a spiritually healthy person, to change your life of dysfunction to a life filled with meaning and doing good. But you know for that to happen you have to know the entire gospel. Or there's sort of this danger we fall into in which what we do is we distort this message because we sort of make an idol of Jesus. We distort Him into an image of us with all of our dysfunctions and all of our sins and all of our wrong thinking. We make Him like us, when no, we're supposed to become like Him.
Now, what we're going to read next is going to be surprising to Christians because it's a message to His disciples, because Jesus actually give a warning about His followers in that day. And it's in the Sermon on the Mount. So it's very important we listen to this. You know, the Sermon on the Mount once again is one of the great discourses of Jesus in the entire scripture. And this is how He ends it, okay? There's so many positive things. And then towards the end He says, now listen to who He's talking to. "Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."
According to Jesus, remember we're looking at His teachings, that's what we're doing in this whole series. Calling Him Lord is not enough according to him. To be a follower of Christ, a Christian, we must submit our entire lives to doing the will of God. That's what He said. That's what He said. He says, "many will say to Me in that day, that last day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name and done many wonders in Your name?" They did great deeds that seem Christian, and listen to His response. And we as disciples, we as followers, if you want to follow Jesus Christ, you have to listen to this. "And then I will declare to them, I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness."
I can’t imagine a more terrifying experience than to stand before Jesus Christ in the last day and hear those words. So if you say, well this is fear of religion. I'm just teaching what Jesus taught. And am I terrified by that? Yes. So I pray all the time that God will be in my life, so I won't hear those words that Jesus Christ will be in my life so I don't hear those words because I don't want to hear them. Remember we read how Jesus told the Pharisees that they were spiritually blind. I want you to think about this a minute. The Pharisees, oh, we can put them down, but the Pharisees didn't worship Zeus or Isis or Mithras, or any of the other pagan gods and goddesses. They worshiped the God of the Bible, but they denied Jesus as the Messiah. They denied His lordship over their lives. They denied Him as teacher. They denied His example. They denied Him as Savior. And Jesus taught that at the last day at the time of His judgment, there will be those who claim to follow Him, but they deny His Lordship, they deny that He is Savior and they refused to live by the will of God. They deny God's definition of sin and live lifestyles against God. And like the Pharisees, they will see Jesus, but they will be blind.
Jesus continues by explaining to His followers how not to be like those professing Christians. Okay, so let me read that. That's the end of this section now. He says, therefore, this is the end of the Sermon on the Mount. "Whoever hears these sayings of mine and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house and it did not fall for it was founded on the rock. For everyone who hears these sayings of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand and the rain descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat on that house and it fell and great was its fall. And so it was when Jesus had ended these sayings that the people were astonished at His teachings for He taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes."
Jesus is very clear. That's the point. He's clear. This is an allegory. Those who hear and live by His words will be saved and those who hear and reject His words will be judged. When we just comprehend the enormity of what God is offering us, when we understand that Jesus is truly the Christ, when we understand the price He paid so that we can have a relationship with God, how can we do anything else but dedicate our lives to God? Anything less than that is what? It means we don't understand. We are rejecting what's going on. To do anything less, to claim that He is Lord without submitting to Him. And I want you to think, but we just read to do anything less is unacceptable to Jesus. You know, Jesus gave many parables about the judgment He brings in the last day.
So what does Jesus teaching about Gehenna and the fiery furnace really mean? What is the promise reward of the followers of Jesus? To answer these questions, get your free copy of "Heaven and Hell" What does the Bible really teach?" The study guide will unlock a whole new way of looking at the wonderful biblical teachings about heaven and hell. You may be surprised to find out that Jesus, what Jesus was actually meaning when He talked about destroying both body and soul. You may be surprised to find out that Christians aren't actually leaving earth and going to heaven, but heaven's coming to earth. You can get a glimpse into God's great plan to save you from hopelessness and give you a promise of eternal life with Him and His son, Jesus Christ.
To get your free copy of "Heaven and Hell" What does the Bible really teach?" call the number on your screen or go to beyondtoday.tv to download your free copy. And on beyondtoday.tv, you will also be able to watch the other programs in this Beyond Today series, “The Unknown Jesus," as well as programs on dozens of other relevant biblical issues. Every Christian needs to regularly read the Sermon on the Mount. And when you get to the final statement of Jesus as judge, take a hard look at your life.
You know, the Sermon of Mount is very positive and we should be encouraged by it. But we need to get to the end. And when we do, we need to read it and we need to say, He's saying that to me. I don't want to hear those words. If we take that to heart, we won't hear those words, we will never hear, “I never knew you.” Let me explain something. God wants to know you. Jesus wants to know you on a very personal level, but He also wants you to know Him and He wants you to know God the Father. That's where He takes you. What He is offering you is beyond imagination. God's spiritual healing and meaning in your life is what He wants to give you now, right now, not tomorrow, not sometime in your life in the future. God wants to come into your life now and that is only through Jesus Christ. We've already talked about that on this series. You can't get there without that. That's what He wants to do for you. And in changing your life now, in this mess of humanity, right? Let's be honest, we live in a mess. You and I are part of the mess. In this mess, you can become a child of God forever.
Next time in this series, we'll look at what Jesus means when He said that He's the Lord of the Sabbath. So be sure and join us next time.
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[Gary Petty] Hi, I'm Gary Petty, a pastor with United Church of God. If you are looking for a church that encourages living what the word of God really teaches you found the right place. We're a community of believers dedicated to seeking the truth and preaching the good news of the coming kingdom of God. We'd like to welcome you to come and join us on this spiritual journey. We have hundreds of congregations around the United States and across the world. Visit ucg.org to find a church near you. We're looking forward to meeting you soon.